The governor signed the bill at a signing ceremony on Wednesday, the day after the bill cleared the state legislature. The bill phases in a universal school choice program and raises teacher pay while restricting the teaching of critical race theory and other controversial concepts.
“Arkansas made history today, setting the education model for the nation,” Sanders tweeted after the bill was signed. “The failed status quo is dead, and hope is alive for every kid in our state!”
In a statement to the Washington Examiner, Sanders spokeswoman Alexa Henning said the governor had signed into law “the biggest, boldest, [and] most conservative education reform.”
“By the passage of AR LEARNS, Arkansas will be a blueprint for the country,” Henning said. “It raises teacher pay, empowers parents, and gives our students the skills to succeed in life. Every kid should have access to a quality education and a path to a good paying job and better life right here in Arkansas.”
The new law makes Arkansas the third state this year to enact a universal school choice program after Iowa and Utah enacted similar bills earlier this year. The three states join Arizona and West Virginia as the only states to date that have enacted universal school choice.
The new law earned praise from education freedom activists, who noted the legislation builds upon school choice laws in numerous states passed in recent years.
“Education choice is winning in 2023, and it’s even on track to outpace the unprecedented school choice progress in 2021,” Heritage Foundation education research fellow Jason Bedrick told the Washington Examiner. “Gov. Huckabee Sanders made empowering families with education choice a top priority, and her efforts have paid off. We now have 11 states that empower families with K-12 education savings accounts, which offer the most flexibility and choice in education learning options.”
American Federation for Children senior fellow Corey DeAngelis also praised Arkansas as becoming the fifth state where the “government school monopoly” had been broken.
“We’re freeing families from the clutches of the teachers unions once and for all — and there’s nothing they can do about it,” DeAngelis said. “School choice has reached escape velocity. There’s no stopping us. [AFT President] Randi Weingarten and her union allies must be losing their minds now that they’re losing control over the minds of other people’s children. It’s absolutely glorious.”